EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The Marine Corps' fifth generation fighter, the F-35B Lightning II, made its first flight at Eglin Air Force Base, today, signaling the start of the next era of Marine Aviation on the cusp of last weekend's Centennial of Marine Aviation celebrations in Washington D.C.<br /> <br /> The F-35B Lightning II is the Marine Corps' Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the aircraft that enables forces to operate in harsh conditions and remote locations where few airfields are available for conventional aircraft. The STOVL variant also enables the F-35B to operate from amphibious ships - a capability that no other aircraft possesses. The Marine Corps requirement for expeditionary tactical aircraft has been demonstrated repeatedly since the inception of Marine aviation almost 100 years ago today. From the expeditionary airfields and agile jeep carriers of World War II, to close air support in proximity to troops in Korea and Vietnam, to forward basing on cratered runways and taxiways throughout Iraq, through to today's fight in Afghanistan, the Marines ability to tactically base fixed wing aircraft in the hip pocket of its ground forces has been instrumental to its success on the battlefield. <br /> <br /> The F-35B is part of the Marine Corps' ongoing effort to modernize its aging fleet of aircraft and to take advantage of fifth generation technology that will greatly enhance its ability to meet the Marines' expeditionary operating requirements at sea and ashore. The F-35B will replace three legacy aircraft - F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier - saving the Department of Defense approximately $1 billion in legacy operations and maintenance costs. <br /> <br /> Media representatives who have questions should contact Capt. Richard Ulsh. Capt. Ulsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-614 4309.